Premature to open schools now

Karnataka: Premature to open schools now, pvt hospitals tell government

August 31, 2021
-Reshma Ravishanker

Even as the state government has announced the reopening of in-person classes for students from class VI to pre-university, a report submitted by the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) indicates that it is very ‘premature’ to open schools in a full-fledged manner currently.

In the wake of the anticipated third wave of Covid-19, private hospitals submitted a report on the infrastructure and management aspects.

The 34-page report has cited examples from various countries and said that it is best to take baby steps. “Last summer, Israel opened schools but had to close them within a week because 100 % of the cases were traced to schools. In the US, schools have been repeatedly opened and shut due to Covid-19 spread. South Korea deferred its opening five times. In the US, 4.3 million children have so far been infected. More children in the US are being hospitalized now with serious infection than at any point in this pandemic,” the report reads.

The report also suggests that time be taken for preparation. “Millions of children haven’t had the benefit of online education. WhatsApp messages cannot have a huge impact on learning. We should open schools but not in a black and white manner. We should have parent-teacher meetings to discuss plans for when cases go up. It will be a fluid situation, at least for some months. There will never be an ideal time. There are uncertainties. And there are risks. We need to take baby steps, in a staggered form and gradually increase school hours and the number of children. Take all precautions and how it goes,” PHANA has advised.

Experts have, in the past warned the state government that the third wave is likely to impact children in large numbers. According to statistics gathered by the department of health and family welfare, Karnataka has reported a positivity rate of less than 1 % on August 30 and the number of new cases reported was 973.  

Dr Hema Divakar, Committee Chair, Covid Expert Group, PHANA said, “The idea is not to instill fear in the minds of parents. We recognize that not going to school is not an option. But we must understand that everything in the Covid-19 scenario is guesswork now. Even the Delta variant took experts by surprise. When the implications are unknown, it is best not to go overboard only to come back to square one. If necessary, schools can be reopened for two hours a day for a few classes only. This should be done only after ensuring everyone from the canteen’s cook to the bus driver and completely vaccinated.

“We were expecting third wave by 3rd or the 4th week of August. There is uncertainty even now. For children, in particular, we need to take care because it is not the age for them to get admitted or isolated. The implications they will have psychologically must also be taught over. We are not a country with great expertise in child psychology either to counsel children between 10-20. That must be thought over,” said Dr Divakar. 

Also read: 

Karnataka: Pediatric Covid wards in all district hospitals to fight third wave

Will the third wave of Covid-19 put children at greater risk?

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